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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  August 29, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. >> tonight, a conversation with j.c. watts. j.c. watts tonight on romney-caller: rise in ticket. also tonight, a conversation about new orleans with daniel wolff. his new book is called "the fight for home." >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day
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by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: j.c. watts is the former chair of the house republican conference. he is founder and chairman of the consulting firm that bears his name. he joins us from washington.
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glad to have you. let me start by saying to you that it is pretty clear to me that if this party does not do something in the short run to broaden its base and to expand its appeal in the long run, it is going to be nonexistent. tell me why you could or would disagree with that argument. >> i do not disagree with that argument. i've been a republican since 1989. i made jack kemp disciple. we had this conversation many times. he made the argument that if we do not do a better job in appealing to those nontraditional constituents, we will never become the natural
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majority. that has been 20 years ago. i happen to believe that you could make an argument that we are getting worse. when you look at the convention, i was on the ground for about 24 hours. when you look at the convention, you look at the swing states, virginia, north carolina, ohio. you see nobody from those states that looks like me, that has taken a role. there is no -- no james from virginia, no herman cain, notes charles butler at of illinois. now michael williams out of texas. timothy simon and michael williams at of texas and california, you have two who are right in the middle of this
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energy debate. this energy policy. you would think they might be at the table. you can make an argument that we are getting worse. we continue to chip away at. we will continue to chip away at it. tavis: i hear the definition you offered. let me take my staff at defining worse. i do not expect you to say this. whatever disagreements and whatever issues we have disagreed about, we have always maintained a wonderful friendship. i think i can say that. a wonderful brotherhood. i have never heard you say stuff that i've found to be uncivil. and mean-spirited and nasty. i cannot say that about mr. west out of florida.
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even though there are a couple of african-american members of the house to happen to be republican. tim scott add of south carolina. -- out of south carolina. you have to and scott, alan west, on any given day, this guy just goes off the rails. is that what it takes to be a black conservative? you have to say outrageous stuff like this every other day. >> i can only speak for me and in 19 -- 2008, i had people accusing me of being a senator obama supporter because i would not slam him. consider the fact that i voted for impeachment for president
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clinton, but it was not a personal vote. i voted based on the facts and a lot and the constitution and what we were dealing with. i do think we have to strike a more civil tone in our public policy discussions. i happen to believe -- i remember when the senator or the house member from south carolina called president obama and a liar on the floor of the house. i was on the national show and they were asking me what i thought about it. i said, i disagree with it. i think it was wrong. both sides were wrong for what they did and how they handled that. i think there is a discourse in our public policy discussions on both sides that i do not think
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is healthy for the discussion. but i hope you can listen to my arguments and say, i totally disagree, but i do appreciate the fact that he was civilized. tavis: you mentioned jack kemp. paul ryan says he is a jack kemp disciple. unless he was teaching you to different things come at your politics are not exactly the same. -- different things, your politics are not exactly the same. he is a bit more conservative than jack kemp. i do not see the kemp. i do not see that coming out of paul ryan. >> i think, paul is dealing with
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much different and much tougher circumstances in terms of the numbers and where we are an debt and deficits and are federal programs 6 cetera, but also -- programs, etc., but jack was in a huddle and he had black, white, red, brown with him. jack had a perspective that a lot of republicans do not have. i think paul learned at the feet of jack kemp, i do not think he has the same playing field that jack had to deal with. having said that, i still do not think you abandon the jack kemp principles. i do not think republicans as a whole, we say we have to reach
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down and create opportunities for the least of these. jack made a passionate argument about supply-side economics, but he also talked about taking those economics and giving opportunity to the poor, to the underserved, to black business owners. when he talked about capital gains, every time there has been a cut in capital gains, you see investment grow in black businesses, small businesses. jack, at everything that he did, he weaved every -- opportunity for everybody. whether you are republican or not, at some point, or for 50% or better of his dialogue, regardless of where you stood in the political spectrum, you were saying, me, too. i can handle that model.
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he was very good that. no one has picked up that mantle. when you talk about helping the poror, some look at you like you have a fish head. in spite of the fact that i am for tax relief, i also have to think about the least of these. sometimes, it is a matter of saying, i disagree with the model that someone on the left or someone on the right or someone in the middle. nevertheless, if i am opposed i haves smiley's model, the responsibility of coming up with my own model. i would use a different model. tavis: i think that as part of the problem right now. we have not seen mr. romney's
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model. one candidate, right in's budget planned all day long. -- paul ryan's budget plan all day long. whenever going to see what his model is? he has not laid out an economic plan. when will be a good time for him to get around to laying out the plan? >> i thought two or three days ago, i say this in the name of transparency, i am from the energy state. i was an oil and gas regulator. i thought what he laid out four or five days ago was a pretty good start on the energy side. we will see energy prices rise because of what we are seeing happen down in the gulf, down in new orleans, louisiana, florida. i think we can be energy
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independent in the next 10 years. he laid out a plan to do that. not only can we be energy independent based on the oil and gas that we have on the north american continent, those are pretty good jobs. down in oklahoma, texas, those energy producing states, all you have to have these -- all you have to do is to be able to pass a drug test and you can get jobs starting at $20 an hour. i would've taken his plan a step further. i am going to create processes and encourage those people that do the hiring and the procurement, i will encourage them to open up opportunities for everybody. red, yellow, up brown, black, and white. if you can start out making $20 an hour with no high school diploma, just be able to pass a drug test, that is a pretty good opportunity.
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make sure that people of all colors, you should have access to that opportunity. as i said earlier, i am for reducing tax rates, allowing people to keep more of their money to do what they need to do. at the same time, you have to be engaged in saying to people, this is how my plan impacts you. it is not just enough to lay it out there. you need to be engaged with all demographics. tavis: we will see it what he has to say. >> have you invited him on? tavis: yes, we have invited him. i have invited barack obama on.
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i have not seen him either. if you are tavis smiley and you are doing your best to tell the truth, and you might end up not talking to either one of them. good to have you on, have a great week. up next, daniel wolff on efforts to be built new orleans. tavis: daniel wolff is an author and filmmaker. his latest book focuses on the plight of new orleans as we commemorate the anniversary of hurricane katrina. the book is called "the fight for home." the to have you on this program.
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-- good to have you on this program. >> you have been a big help. tavis: you have been to new orleans recently? >> it is still tough. you and i were there for it -- together. the neighborhoods that came back, you have some new houses. it is starting to look rough again. even the new houses. tavis: i am glad you read the text. how do we sustain a real conversation about our renaissance american city and what it says about us as a nation that we have not put it back on line as it should bend? how do you sustain a conversation about that when time passes by? >> people talk about katrina
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fatigue. i am convinced that is unlikely as civil war fatigue. it is too big of an issue. people know it. they want to know about it. they care about it, they nt to know what happened. they know that it is a test of the national character. you and i know that when they talk about the levees, they talk about pre-existing conditions. they were not up to snuff. the issues are from pre-existing conditions. a bunch of people did not have a good place to live, they did not have health care, good police protection. detroit, oakland, baltimore, philadelphia. it is the issue of poverty and the issue of whether they will treat everybody decently. >> if new orleans was a test of our national character, and we could have made it a model city
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for how to deal with pre- existing are man-made conditions, why did we do that? >> we have a lack of will and i'm afraid there is -- how do i put this diplomatically? there is a lack of concern for poor people. time wet -- the last had this many people unemployed was the great depression. we sat down and said, we have to redefine our priorities. that is what the new deal was trying to be about. we're not doing that. maybe if we bailout the banks, everything will work out. new orleans is the test case. new orleans, people are amazing. courageous. they're taking a stand. they're doing it without the government.
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tavis: i think i know what you mean by that. doing it without the government. i get that. >> three or four different people i talk to in this book, people you know, in different times during the six years that jonathon and i have been going down there, said, with a kind of sadness, i am not sure they want us back. it was not like it was happenstance or a disaster. it was a bunch of things that looked like the government and the powers that be did not want people back. certain people. it was one thing if there is no place to live. if it is a -- is another if police cannot protect you. for a lot of people, a bunch of the churches said, we have to close down your neighborhood church. the general message, including
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the schools, the general message is wheat -- you are not europe -- you are not our top priority. tavis: there was great debate about the role and the nature of the role played by the former mayor of the city. he is not new any more. how have the politics or the political debate, has it changed with the mayor now who was elected post-katrina? >> the racial makeup of the city has changed a bunch. he has more white people, more of a majority of white people. he is trying to bring everybody
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together, i think. when i said in defiance of the government, one of the amazing things, people are not looking at the mayor. they are doing it themselves because one of the lessons to them was, you cannot wait on the government. it does not matter what any of them say, you have to do it yourself. that is both a good thing and a sad thing. we have to govern ourselves. i do not think people trust. this neighborhood you went to, there are all these people. they're all trying to get back. the blight in the neighborhood is this old elementary school. its days boarded up -- it stays
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boarded up. it turns out about a month ago, the reason it is staying there is because it is owned by the councilman who is supposed to be representing them. the money has -- he got from fema went into his campaign. the person they elected to represent them and you as their neighbor is tearing down the neighborhood. those old buildings are where people are doing drugs. there was a woman raped nearby. this is their councilmen. no wonder they do not trust the government. tavis: the documentary, it premieres. what were you trying to get through about these stories about these individuals? >> the book puts it in a larger
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context. the movie is much more intimate. you get to sit down and have dinner with carolyn parker. i think what i want to get across were there were these people the took a stand. there is still trouble and it is going to be a long fight, but they refuse to leave. i wanted to document this. wherever you are in the country, when they say they don't want you to come back and they say they don't want you, it is possible to sit down and say, i am not leaving. this is my home. this is where a stand and this is where i fight. it is important to keep reminding people that there is this possibility. tavis: is there anything in new orleans that the city is doing better than prior to the storm?
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if we have the will, what the storm allows us to do on the other side of it is to start over. education comes to mind. is there any area where you can sense or see that they're taking this opportunity a bit more seriously? >> i think the environmental side, which is a key, they are doing a better job. i was amazed -- there is this mississippi river gulf outlet. it was a boondoggle and a bad idea. they said, we better clothes that purred all the businesses said, we are going to lose jobs. -- we'd better clothes that.
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the businesses said, we're going to lose jobs. that was a clear thing about priorities. environmentally, you cannot keep losing your marshlands. i think new orleans is beginning to understand that is going to be a top priority. it is not like, by the way, we ought to preserve the environment. we're not going to make it without the environment. new orleans is so extreme on the edge of the river. education is more of an open book. 80% of the kids are now in charter schools. the experiment that is going on around the country is more extreme. i think the jury is still out on the charter schools, frankly. there is a lot of negative and some positives. tavis: daniel wolff has written a wonderful book. on september 20, you will see
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the premier of the academy award winning jonathon demme directed documentary. ms. parker is a character. i say that in the kindest way. you'll want to see this on a september 20. good to have you on the program. that is our show for tonight. i will see you back next time. thank you for watching. keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with david brody. plus melanie lynskey. >> there is a saying that dr.
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king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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